Letters from readers
Is it possible for you to enquire of Motor Sport readers whether any official photographs or snapshots are available of a Shelsley hybrid called the Shipton Special?
I should be pleased to cover any charges involved.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Conrad Shipton (Lieut. (A.), R.N.V.R.)
[Please write direct. The Shipton Special comprised a "23/60" Vauxhall engine in a Coventry Premier chassis. – Ed.]
F/O A.M.R. Mallock's article in September's issue was extremely interesting to me, as I am at present rebuilding a 1931 Austin Seven. It started life as a saloon, but for some years now it has been undergoing various changes. I bought the chassis from a friend of mine who is now serving with the R.A.F. in India. He started rebuilding it by fitting a Morgan front axle and having the rear springs flattened. I had to refit the front axle as there was too much castor angle on it – the self-centering action being strongly in evidence even when wishing the chassis along! I believe that I am correct in saying that there should be no castor angle on the Morgan front axle, as the rearward offset of the centre-line of the stub axle from that of the king pins provides an effective castor angle of about 5 1/2 degrees. The Morgan drag link and track rod have been replaced by those from a Morris Minor. This is a definite improvement on the original, as it now has ball-ended fittings. The steering box and column catne from a Jowett.
I disagree with F.O. Mallock's statement that it is not necessary to alter the transmission when fitting flattened springs. I found it necessary to pack the engine up half an inch at the rear and raise the chassis ball-joint two inches, in order that the crankshaft and propeller shaft would be in line for normal loading of the car. If this is not done a considerable loss in transmission efficiency will occur at the change in angle of the propeller shaft at the chassis ball-joint.
The engine has been completely rebuilt with one or two modifications. The oiling system is basically the same, but the Austin oil pump has been replaced bv a gear-type pump from a Morris bolted to the timing case cover and driven from the camshaft. This necessitated doing away with the fan, but as I am fitting an oil cooler and a cleaner, I do not expect any adverse effects, either from overheating or bits of engine floating about in the oil stream.
The inlet manifold was opened up to 1 in. diameter to take two S.U. carburetters, also from Morris Minors, but I have abandoned this idea because of the inability to get larger sizes of needles. The engine ran very well up to about half throttle with these carburetters, but after that it went "fluffy," due to richness. I have now got a 26 F.V. updraught Solex carburetter fitted to Y-shaped manifold in place of the T-shaped Austin one. The engine at present is extremely critical on ignition advance.
During the few trial runs which I have made the steering seems to respond excellently, although I have yet to find out what it will be like in the "fifties." The body that I am fitting is a 2-seater Singer sports with a pointed back.
Hoping that these few notes will be of some use on an already much talked-of subject.
I am, Yours. etc.,
With reference to your artiele in the August edition giving details of the Aston-Martin in with twin-o.h.c. engine designed by John Benson, it may interest readers to know that this car is still in existence. I first heard of the car from the garage manager to whom it was disposed of, and decided to take a run down to Lichfield to look it over. It was reposing in the stables of an old house, presumably Mr. John Benson's former residence, and after gazing with awe and wonder at the array of spare con. rods, crankshaft. 4-seater body, and sundry other bits and pieces, I went back to London and announced to the garage manager that I was satisfied, and would buy it.
The next problem was to transport it to London, and this was achieved with the aid of a 30-cwt. lorry and a gang of helpers, the car, spare parts, and even the old 4-seater body being loaded on board by means of a block and tackle, the stable doors having been removed from their hinges to form a ramp, and afterwards replaced.
On arrival in London, in the early hours of the morning, the major problem was how to unload the car, as we had, of course, no ramps to use. We persuaded a filling station hand to allow us to use his hydraulic lift, and by this means, and a short tow, finally got the car installed in my garage.
This was towards the end of 1938, and as the war was not so evidently imminent, it was decided to attempt to convert the car into a 2-seater for use in sprint events in the super sports class. A start was made on the reconditioning of the engine and chassis, all of which was dismantled and found to be in very good order, with the exception of the valve-timing gear, the ball races of which were in pieces, and were renewed. The big-ends and main bearings were in such good order that they were not interfered with. The single-seater body had been removed, anti when the engine was reassembled, the instruments were mounted on a temporary panel and the engine started at the first push of the starter button. Except for a considerable amount of noise from the valve gear, the engine seemed to be particularly smooth.
It was not possible to run the car on the road as it was not taxed or insured, so work was commenced on a 2-seater body constructed of wood with a plywood skin, and at this time Gregor Grant, of the Light Car, who was a near neighbour of mine and a fellow Morgan enthusiast, brought along a photographer, it being Grant's intention to use the pictures in an article on the car, although its history was not then known to us.
At this point the war intervened, and all work on the car ceased, with the exception of fitting modern wheels and tyres, which considerably improved the appearance. Grant, joined the Forces, I was working long hours, and had removed to another address, so the car was left in the garage at my old house, which was thoroughly blitzed, and it was not until the beginning of this year that the debris was sorted over and the car and what parts could be found moved to my home garage.
On Easter last, having some spare time, I cleaned up the engine and body, got the engine started without much difficulty, and drove the car for the first time. As the only available road was the drive of the flats in which I live, which is very narrow and winding, the experience was more exciting than enlightening. The acceleration of a blown engine on a 10-ft. pathway with lots of corners is not conducive to a study of anything other than the need of avoiding either homicide, suicide, or demolition.
That was the last occasion on which I had time to devote any attention to the car, and as I still have some of the original petrol in the tank, perhaps some kind reader would suggest a way of trying the car on some private road! I hope that the few facts which I have been able to give regarding this very interesting car will be of use to you, and assure you that any further queries or an inspection of the car would be welcomed.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Re the 750-c.c. Thomas chassis. Since last writing to you I have had another look at it and also obtained a G.A. blue print, 1/4-scale. I think I gave you the dimension incorrectly. The track is 3 ft. 9 in. and wheelbase is 7 ft. 6 in.
The torque tube is above and not below the seat and the front axle is above the springs.
The engine was to have been one half of the 1,500-c.c. straight-eight. I also found two clutches. There are plenty of spares – axles, one gearbox (in pieces), one differential (built up), springs and all sorts of bits and pieces such as spring links and brake links.
The whole thing has always been carefully stored and is now in a private garage in almost perfect condition. There are only two wheels fitted and these were the spares from a Thomas-Aston-Martin hybrid ["Green Pea"? – Ed.]. Also there is no body work, neither are there any drawings of it. All the blue prints are complete (about three sets). I do not think there is any danger of the car going for scrap, and it is not for sale. From the G.A. drawing it appears that the bottom of the crankcase is only 5 3/4 in. from the c.l. of the crankshaft. This gives a ground clearance of 6 in.
I am, Yours, etc.,
T.H.L. Arrowsmith (Sub.-Lt. (A.), R.N.V.R.).
With reference to the article in September issue of Motor Sport headed "Brescia versus Type 40," and concocted from my notes, I have no objection to being re-written – but take the strongest exception to being misrepresented – especially on the following points:–
In my original notes on Brescia fuel consumption I added the proviso of "not using too much acceleration," quite a necessary point, you will agree.
If any doubting Thomas is inclined to think 42 m.p.g. from 1 1/2-litres is too remarkable, I would point out that 40 m.p.g. was guaranteed at "touring speeds" with the 16 valvers, and the contemporary Autocar quoted Mr. Bugatti, claiming 43 m.p.g. from his 1 1/2-litre cars and 48 m.p.g. was mentioned in one of the early '20s Show report.
I only wish I could demonstrate the fantastically small amount of throttle required to maintain 2,000 r.p.m. in top on ordinary going.
The other misrepresentation arises on the Type 40's acceleration. The original notes included the words, "at lower road speeds" – owing to lower gear ratios, etc. Obviously this refers to from rest to, say, 35-40 m.p.h. and not overall acceleration.
Your version gives the impression of a Type 40 accelerating quicker than a Ford V8 – very unlikely, I think, especially in the higher range.
No hard feelings, but have an urge to keep out of the 90 m.p.h. T-M.G. class.
I am, Yours, etc.,
[We apologise to Mr. Fawcett for thus misrepresenting his claims. – Ed.]
I feel that the letter from Mr. A.F. Brookes in the September issue calls for a reply from me, not so much with a view to "developing the discussion" (which, incidentally, I also am enjoying) but to point out that our respective views are as opposed as Nazism is to Democracy. The Editor has hit the nail plumb on the head in his footnote, by stating that the discussion depends on "the indefinable qualities of cars, rather than the concrete." This has been my point all along. I rather suspect, as the Editor again surmises, that Mr. Brookes has driven mostly Britishers, and that his actual experience with continentals is virtually nil? Otherwise, I cannot conceive how on earth he could prefer the cars he mentions, particularly "in the 10-h.p. class," to their continental counterparts. I merely repeat that an "1100" Fiat is away ahead of them all – indefinable qualities, certainly; and concrete (performance figures) as well! For my part I have had actual experience over many miles of driving (though, thank God, not actual ownership!) with all the cars he mentions, except Jowett. If he has not already done so, I would like Mr. Brookes to gain experience of the Lancia "Aprilia," B.M.W. and Fiat. At present he is living in a fool's paradise in believing that his pet British 1 1/2-litres are supreme: though I admit that the Riley 1 1/2 "sprite" series, of around 1937, was a grand little car.
I notice he has not challenged my views in the middle-priced large cars or the high-priced sports cars. Again, I have had considerable experience of British, continental and American. In each case, the British "aren't in it." There has recently been a great discussion in a contemporary on the same subject, started by some half-wit who wrote a lot of bunkum about the early "Lambda" and continental cars in general. I had to take a strong grip of myself to avoid joining that discussion which, however, was taken up by a host of people who pointed out that in the indefinable qualities, particularly, the British manufacturers are a long way behind. In nearly every case, intense patriotism is due to lack of experience with continentals. For our sake, that is probably just as well: but very regrettable.
Finally, I acknowledge the M.G. successes. I hope they were all scored over stiff foreign opposition in their respective classes. I also regret the error in my last letter about the M.G. success in the Mille Miglia – but I had recently seen somewhere that Taruffi easily beat M.G. opposition in a Mille Miglia event. Perhaps the Editor can say if this was ever so?
I am, Yours, etc.,
C.W.P. Hampton (Lieut.).
[In 1934 we believe a Maserati won the 1,100-c.c. class of the Mille Miglia, in which category an M.G. Magnette competed. When we can get to our records we will give the facts in more detail. – Ed.]
I hardly feel it necessary to refute "Two-Point-Six" at length because you, Sir, have already dealt very fairly with his contribution to your October issue. Indeed, I could think of many more effective criticisms of vintage cars than he himself has done, for cheap sneers, coming from behind the camouflage of a nom-de-plume, never convinced anyone. Of solid reasoning it appears that "2.6" is incapable.
Even so, some of his comments are truly sparkling. Having confessed to a very reasonable distaste for discomfort "2.6" asks, "What's wrong with a 2.6 M.G., 2 1/2 S.S., Riley Kestrel, B.M.W., and the like?" Now of these, one is universally admitted to be among the few that can give points to the vintage car on all headings – provided you can afford to buy it. Of the remainder, one has a negligible performance, one, at least, is diabolically uncomfortable, and two of them have exceedingly inferior roadholding and cornering characteristics.
From his general remarks "2.6" makes it apparent that quick, accurate steering and good controllability (horrid word!) are not within the scope of his understanding.
As to driving in blizzards, I speak subject to correction, but it is my belief that snow falls fairly impartially upon the occupants of S.S. and Bentley alike. One can, of course, have a saloon body on either.
I think it is generally allowed that the best modern cars are better than anything of the vintage era, although the very best of the vintage age can still hold their own on all important points. Even when the vintage car is surpassed on sheer performance, there remains the very solid appeal of value for money, durability, and accessibility, not to mention the more intangible factors of high cruising speed at low revs., accurate steering and good road-holding, which appear to be as incomprehensible to the genus "2.6" as is caviare to the general.
To some extent, I think, the vintage-versus-modern argument is closely analogous to the "Anglo-Continental controversy," now equally rampant. On this subject a strangely fatuous outburst recently appeared in the Motor from the pen of Mr. S. Gordon Marshall.
In asking the question, "Why commend continental cars?" Mr. S. Gordon Marshall adds: "Let us be fair to ourselves."
As is well known, the English are divided into two classes: those who can see no good in English products, and those who can see no harm in them. "Let us be fair to ourselves" is the text almost invariably chosen by the latter class.
As usual, the truth lies between the two extremes. All the arguments are thoroughly hackneyed, but Mr. Marshall introduces some rather novel fallacies which ought to be dispelled. To begin with, he correctly states the dilemmas which confront a designer, and from among which one of a variety of compromises must be chosen. He then continues to the specious statement that "manufacturers who cannot hold their designers down to evolving models that meet with the public's approval very soon go out of business."
Now this is a very dangerous half truth, because it is not often that even the best of goods will sell without a powerful sales organisation and, conversely, a mediocre article will sell for quite a long time with a backing of good publicity and salesmanship. In certain cases this applies to British cars.
Mr. Marshall cites the relatively small sale of continental cars in this country as supporting his argument; he then tries to discover complicated reasons why British cars do not sell overseas! Once more, he overlooks the salesmanship angle. No continental make has a good sales backing in England, despite which such makes as Fiat and Citroen sell in surprisingly large numbers. The British public also has a not wholly unfounded fear of spares difficulties, and low secondhand values attendant upon continental cars in this country
It therefore appears to be at least a possibility that some English cars may have been selling to some extent on salesmanship rather than on inherent merit; but to decide that let us proceed to a dispassionate comparison, incidentally considering Mr. Marshall's arguments.
He seizes upon the Lancia "Lambda" as a basis for his comparison. Now, the "Lambda" was a clever design, and it had a deserved following over here, although there were several contemporary British cars which were more than an equal to it on balance. But all that was 15 or 20 years ago, so what possible bearing can it have upon an argument about current design? Confining our attention to mass-production types, what is the position to-day? Our engines are more than a match for their continental brethren so far as power output and most other important features are concerned. In weight and durability they are to some extent hampered by being bound to a high bore/stroke ratio, owing to the horsepower tax. But that is not their fault. In coachwork the life, finish, upholstery and general convenience of most popular English production jobs fully rival the continental equivalent, even if we have shown an unfortunate taste for bogus walnut and similar fripperies.
Wherein, then, lies this alleged continental superiority? Solely, I suggest, in the all-important characteristic of good roadholding. Bad roads, dangerous mountain passes, and a purchasing public who are predominantly mechanically minded, has forced continental manufacturers to produce a family car which was at once capacious and comfortable, and yet handled more or less in the manner of a thoroughbred sports-car.
English motorists, by contrast, moved about rather slowly on billiard-table surfaces, and were not at all mechanically minded. Moreover, most of them had no experience of a car which handled properly, and therefore had no standard by which to judge the home product. But after the war our roads may not be quite so good, for a time at least, and a very large number of people will have become mechanically minded and widely experienced drivers.
So it behoves our manufacturers to consider whether the motoring public will continue to accept their recent standards of chassis design, which were inefficient, both from the point of view of personal comfort and safety. To combine transatlantic standards of comfort with good road-holding (particularly in a light car with a forward engine mounting), independent front suspension and a low centre of gravity are absolute necessities. In a small car front-wheel drive is a tremendous help in lowering the centre of gravity without decreasing headroom, as well as improving general handling. It may be an unfortunate necessity that. i.f.s. increases tyre wear, but it is at least debatable as to whether that must necessarily be the case.
A recognition of these features has led to the production of such cars as D.K.W., Fiat, Citroen and Peugeot, to name the best continental "family" cars. If only we can add the self-evident excellences of these machines to the many admitted virtues of the equivalent British makes, we shall obviously have something to beat all comers; and such a coalition is clearly possible of attainment.
But is it "being fair to ourselves" to pretend that there are no respects in which continental manufacturers are ahead of the home product?
Once again, I think there is no doubt that British design has been retarded (in Mr. Marshall's own words) by "manufacturers holding down their designers." As Mr. Marshall also points out, when our designers are left to themselves they beat the world; but if our motor manufacturers and sales departments go on "holding down their designers" it is at least very open to doubt whether they will not also "very soon go out of business."
I am, Yours, etc.,
I have read with interest a number of articles giving tentative designs for postwar sports cars, and felt that the point of view outlined herewith might provide interesting subject matter for your correspondence columns, and would like your opinion as to its suitability.
May I offer my hearty congratulations to Capt. Moon on his very fine article on a suggested design for a post-war highspeed 1 1/2-litre.
I found it particularly soul-stirring and my enthusiast's blood fairly surged, but (and there is a very big but) are we not inclined to lose sight of several important facts directly relating to postwar motoring? First, such cars as are being suggested now would cost a great deal of money to manufacture and a greater amount to buy, and the majority of these post-war enthusiasts will be those who, pre-war, were only in the position to purchase M.G. "Midgets," Singers, Morgan "4/4s," and Austin Sevens, and keep them running, and those who have been added to the ranks of the enthusiasts by the advent of mechanised warfare.
I can state that I have met many who were pre-war non-competitors and even non-drivers who are now army drivers, and visualise themselves as post-war competitors. These are the fellows who are going to keep the wheels turning in Land's Ends, Exeters, at Brooklands and Donington, and all other venues. These are the fellows whose interests will bring competitive motoring home to the nation as a whole; they will bring a new spirit. and new ideas to the sport. At present they keep the wheels turning under conditions which may tend to make the prewar trials seem "rather a tame affair." They will change Mr. and Mrs. Smith's point of view, change the opinion of the people from regarding a trial as a collection of madmen (who should be in custody) driving death-dealing killers up and down places where they should never have wanted to go anyway had they been sane. Mrs. Smith will fondly tell Mr. Jones that her "Willy" got another medal for driving last Saturday.
Maybe this sounds a bit rough on the pre-war conception of the sport, but that is what will have to happen if the sport is to progress (unless, of course, the promise of a post-war nest egg for the Forces turns out to be £5,000 per year tax free).
However, this is wandering away from the point; the question is, who is going to persuade the manufacturer to put in the very necessary fine materials and labour, and a very large amount of money to make these cars available in sufficient quantities to make it a paying proposition at a popular price? Somehow I do not think it will happen. A few manufacturers of the Aston-Martin, Frazer-Nash, H.R.G. and Alta types will continue to build really rapid cars, but at a price. The bigger organisations will not entertain such a proposition. The result will be a few really well-built cars at a high price and large quantities of horrible little "get here, get there" motor-cars suited only for "perambulating." After all, we have already seen how the bigger organisations lean quite definitely towards a collection of steel pressings.
The result will have to be a very much revised idea of competitive motoring. Such classes as completely-standard production events, semi-standard production events (with limitations), and completely non-standard events, embracing everything that has four wheels and a steering wheel (tillers and tail plane assemblies barred). These will have to be included in major events at Brooklands and Donington (a la Talbot Ten race, 1938). Admitted, the mental picture of an assortment of Morris Eights, Standard Eights, Austin Eights, and other Eights all hurtling round the Campbell Circuit touching 57.83 m.p.h. on the Members' Banking and Railway Straight makes one feel a little ill, but I am quite sure we can get used to it. After all, we got used to the idea of nice soft springs with independent suspension.
Back again on the subject of the car itself and the old-fashioned or pre-war type of enthusiast. How is he going to get hold of a real car again, that is, if he has not hung on to his pre-war carriage and pair? It seems, therefore, that the only thing to do will be either to purchase a high-priced car (when and if available) or a worn-out thoroughbred, with a view to renovation, or in the third case, build a "hybrid" from new and old components, until he has the type of sports car he desires (then his troubles will start, when he tries to enter for some of our standard and semi-standard events).
I have been putting on paper ideas for my car for the past four years, only to scrap them as impossible. However, at last I am actually on the trail of the sort of chassis I have been looking for, and with this I hope to really get down to the job (no details until I actually own said chassis). The only snag is that I never seem to be able to find time to do anything else other than talk about what I am going to do; I believe most of the Servicemen find themselves in the same boat. Incidentally, some of our military vehicles (and I don't mean trucks) have some very novel and useful ideas put into them, and are a source of inventions (or copy).
In conclusion, may I say that, although I take somewhat a "wet-blanket" view of the probable nature of competition after the war, I most certainly do enjoy reading opinions of fellow enthusiasts like Capt. Moon, who, even in the stress of foreign service, has not forgotten a single detail of the sort of car he would like to see manufactured. Meanwhile, I congratulate Motor Sport on keeping available for enthusiasts.
I am, Yours, etc.,
R. Truscott (S/Sgt. R.E.M.E.).
I intended to write this many moons ago, but the Army takes up a lot of time.
Anyway, I must congratulate you on keeping Motor Sport going during the campaign, and now it is practically the only link with real motoring except for the odd Bugatti or Delahaye one sees out here.
For a short period, in my unit, we had a 1,750 "blower" Alfa-Romeo, which gave us the greatest fun; although of about '32 vintage, it was in quite good condition. Eventually, of course, it had to be handed in as captured material, as it was registered in Libya.
I now await the arrival of your August edition.
I am, Yours, etc.,
C. Norman Jones (Lieut.).
Kindly note that you are guilty of an error that may offend our American friends, in stating "the British 125-h.p. Hall-Scott aero engine."
As a matter of fact the Hall-Scott is of American design and construction by Mr. Hall Scott, of San Francisco, U.S.A., and is similar to his famous marine engines, although it does follow Mercédès lines, which Mr. Hall Scott favoured then.
Mr. E.J. Hall also helped on the design of the Liberty aero engine, and I believe he is still active to-day on high-powered marine engines for sub. chasers.
For further information consult Aerosphere for 1939, page 361, by Aircraft Publications, Inc., 370, Lexington Avenue, N.Y. City.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Somewhere in England.
[We gladly publish this correction in fairness to our American allies. – Ed.]
Capt. Moon's design has many attractive features, not the least of which is the location of the main masses – engine and gearbox-final-drive unit – at the extremities of the chassis. This allows low pitching frequency without unduly soft springs.
I am not so sure, however, about the omission of a fan unless the car is to be confined to flat racing and touring. The average cooling system has a dual function: it acts not only in its accredited role of heat-dissipator, but also as a heat reservoir into which a good deal, though not an unlimited amount, of heat can be poured in times of stress, to be removed at leisure later by radiation. While this may be a fair compromise under promenading conditions with occasional short bursts, it is far from ideal. The ideal, surely, is a cooling system that copes with demands as and when they are made. Only with such a system can one hope to indulge successfully in prolonged blinds on the indirects, e.g., intensive Alpinery. One solution is a huge radiator with a really effective thermostat that restricts circulation to about 1/2 gallon until the coolant in the head reaches working temperature. Another (I think, better) is forced draught cooling, whether directly on to finned heads or indirectly through a small radiator. The reduced "reservoir" that then becomes practicable means quicker warming up, less wear, less weight. And the same applies to oil sumps.
I am, Yours, etc.,
I thought that my idea for drilling 100-odd holes in a new chassis for my Aston-Martin might be of some assistance to other enthusiasts, similarly placed, and deprived of mains electricity. Not being particularly enthusiastic about hand drilling, I unearthed an Austin Seven starter motor, reversed the direction of rotation, fitted a sleeve to the spindle to take the stem of a 1/2 in. chuck, and bent a double-ended handle to fit on to the original locating bolt. A 6-volt battery with starter switch in circuit completed the outfit, which drills over 30 holes per charge in a manner equal to any mains electric drill.
I am, Yours, etc.,
I offer no excuse for this, my first venture into print (I hope), except that some comments on the motor situation here may prove interesting.
The Sicilian appears to possess a decided preference for the Fiat, as one might expect. There are any number lying about loose, all, unfortunately, very effectively immobilised. Any transport in an undamaged condition has been commandeered, of course, and I have seen a "2.9" Alfa, Lancia "Aprilia," and a very rakish-looking Bianchi in use by Army personnel, in addition to the ubiquitous Fiat.
The most interesting vehicle to date has been an abandoned German Army Steyr. It was an air-cooled V8 of 3- to 4-litre capacity, with a heavily finned alloy block and steel liners. Other details include push-rod o.h.v., four-wheel drive and i.f.s. There was a cooling device rather like a wind-tunnel over the engine. The seat of government had been well and truly looted, even to the gear-lever knob, so no details are forthcoming.
I am, Yours, etc.,